Posts Tagged ‘lessons’
Today I share three videos I had in a YouTube playlist that hold lessons for those of us in schooling and education.
The lesson is not so much that what kids learn in school now is more complicated that what we had to learn when we were their age. It is that much of what we learn in schools is pointless and not memorable.
You can combine the old with the new, but if the old is mindset or baggage while the new is tools or instruments, the old drive and determine what the new does. The outside looks flashy until you see the inside in action.
You are never too old to try something new. You can choose to be stubborn or fearful or you can put yourself in a situation where you have to try. When you do, you might just surprise yourself and learn something new.
A fallacy is a popular or common misconception.
One PokémonGo fallacy is that the game is social. If it was, some people would not be able to complain about the PokémonGo zombies that seem to walk around blindly with their phones.
The game is not inherently social, but that does not mean that is not social at all. PokémonGo zombies are not the only species of players. There are boyfriend-girlfriend pairs, friends in small groups, family units, and friendly fans.
I spotted one boyfriend-girlfriend pair embracing at a mall while looking over their shoulders at their phones and flicking at Pokémon. They caught each other and were catching PokémonGo while out on a Poké date. This blog does not discuss any other form of poking.
The friend and family units are common too, especially at parks. They will chatter about strategies, alert one another about rare Pokémon appearances, share the joy of eggs hatching, and perhaps discuss the ethics of Pokémon recycling. Maybe not the last one.
The best social experiences are serendipitous.
My son and I were out one day to collect Poké balls at Poké stops when a Seel appeared on the game radar. As my son did not have one yet, he got excited. The problem was that we did not know exactly where it was.
I activated my Go Radar app, but before it could ping the Seel, a student who heard us talking about it ran over and asked us if we were Seel hunting. He then told us where he caught his.
I thanked him for telling us and we made our way to the site of the last Seel sighting. My son and I bagged a Seel each.
That student had information and shared it generously even though he did not need to. He did not hoard information just in case of some imaginary zombie apocalypse.
The lesson here is that it is good to share openly because there so much to give. And when you get, you need to give back in return. This might sound surprising, but some teachers need to be reminded of that.
Another lesson, particularly for teachers who wish to use PokémonGo for teaching content, is NOT to. Not in an uncritical way at least.
PokémonGo may be a fun hook, but it does not guarantee accurate information or critical thinking*. However, the very same fallacies it sells might be leveraged to teach content and model critical thinking.
For example, PokémonGo allows you to “evolve” a proto-Pokémon to a higher form. This is nowhere near any form of evolution in terms of concept or time. A better term might be “metamorphosis”, e.g., when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. This is teaching by correcting fallacies, citing non-examples and examples, and sharing more accurate information.
The non-negotiable and more valuable aspect of doing this is teaching critical thinking. The concepts of evolution and metamorphosis may be forgotten, but the type and strategy of thinking must remain. This skillset is far more valuable than the content knowledge alone.
*If the point is to promote creative thinking, then knock yourself out by embracing the fallacies. Though it must be said that creative and critical thinking are better as co-joined twins.
My reflection starts with an Apple Pay verification process and ends with lessons on teaching and assessment.
When Apple Pay launched in Singapore in May, I jumped on the bandwagon by verifying one of my credit cards. The process was quick and painless: Scan the card details into the Wallet app and verify the card by SMS.
I tried the process with another eligible card, but did not receive SMS verification. I put that down to early implementation issues.
However, I tried about ten times between the launch in May and this month and was still unsuccessful. The Wallet app provided the alternative verification process of calling the credit card issuing bank’s customer service.
I dread using such customer “service” because the process make me feel like a rat being tested in a maze.
I had to get through several layers of number pressing before getting the option to speak with a human. Once there, I was informed that they were “experiencing a high call volume”.
I missed having an old phone that I could slam down on the receiver.
This particular bank provided the option of leaving my contact number so that I would receive a call-back in four hours. That must have been some really high call volume!
I received one shortly before the four-hour mark and explained how I did not receive SMS verification for Apple Pay from that bank’s system. I also mentioned that I had done the verification for another bank’s card quickly and seamlessly with the same process.
The customer service representative (CSR) was puzzled, checked the messaging records, and told me that SMS had been sent to my phone. I wanted to reply that I was not an idiot, but I bit my tongue. I repeated that I did not receive any despite several attempts over two months.
The CSR then advised me not to use my bank-issued security dongle. I told him that the dongle was irrelevant because it was not a verification option in Apple’s Wallet app. So he said he needed to look into my case and asked if he could call me back in an hour.
As soon we disconnected, something connected. A long time ago, I blocked a few of the bank’s SMS numbers because I kept getting marketing messages despite telling them I did not want any. I wondered if the SMS verification shared one of those numbers.
I figured out how to unblock the numbers and tested the SMS verification for that bank card. It worked as quickly as my first card.
The was not the fault of the bank. It was mine for blocking numbers, irritating as their messages were.
I reminded myself of two lessons on teaching:
- You should not just stick to a script. It is important to first listen to the learner’s problem before suggesting a learning solution. The CSR’s advice to not use the dongle was obviously part of a recommended script, but it was irrelevant in this context. Mentioning the dongle not only did not help matters, it added to my frustration.
- Thinking out loud is one of the best ways to learn. I knew what the symptom of my problem was (no SMS from the bank), but I did not know its root cause (I had blocked some SMS numbers). Speaking to someone helped me pull thoughts to the surface and helped me find my own solutions.
When the CSR called back, I explained how I had solved the problem myself. He was relieved. I was relieved.
Right after we disconnected, he triggered an SMS to me to rate the customer service by text. It was like being pranked.
I did not respond to the SMS because the ratings were too coarse: Below, Meet, Exceed.
The phone service took place over more than one call and had multiple components. Averaging the experience was not meaningful. Detailed feedback on what was good or not good about the experience and analysing a recording of the exchanges are more tedious but better options.
I thought of two lessons on assessment:
- The administrative need to collect and collate data drives such bad practice. Just because you collect these data does not make the data meaningful or help CSRs improve. Administrative needs should not drive assessment.
- The average rating approach is a hallmark of summative assessment. It is grading an experience. If the CSR received “Exceed”, did he get a pat on the back? If the feedback was “Meet”, would he just keep reading from scripts? If the grade was “Below”, what can he do with that information? Good assessment is based on quality feedback, not just grades.
It does not take special events, teacher observations, prescribed professional development, or even a personal learning network to learn how to teach or assess better. The lessons and reminders are everywhere, even in the Apple Pay card verification process. You just have to pay attention.
I am critical of vendors looking from the outside claiming they have solutions for schools. I am all for educators transferring principles they apply from the wider world to change what happens in schools. But I wonder how many bother to look or know how to look.
Here is an example. I share a mundane experience and then suggest in italics what educators might learn.
Like the majority of Singaporeans, I need spectacles to correct myopia. So do my wife and son. Replacing our glasses is an expensive affair.
I noticed a new chain of stores that promised to not only offer lower prices but to also make replacement lenses in about half an hour.
With free or low-cost technology, you can reach learners with much less traditional effort.
My wife and I wandered into one branch while in town, ordered ourselves new pairs of glasses, and arranged to collect them at a branch near where we stay.
Teaching and learning does not have to happen in one place. Going to where the learner is at socially and pedagogically is easy with today’s technology.
The spectacle chain is thorough with their eye examinations, their staff are polite, and the lenses prepared overseas. The price breakdowns are clear: There is the basic set and several add-ons (like the type of lenses) that increase the cost of a pair of glasses.
Treat people nicely and communicate simply and clearly. Your resources need not be created in-house; they can be outsourced or curated.
Easy pairs of spectacles are done on the spot. More customised glasses like the ones with progressive, transition, or high-index lenses take about two weeks to make.
Communicate performance expectations clearly and keep your promises.
The chain contacted me by SMS when the glasses were ready. I visited the store they promised I could pick them up at and was very pleased with my new spectacles.
Again, go where the learners are at. Communicate with media and strategies that they are already using.
I asked if they could replace my son’s lenses but keep his current frame. The processing and eye examination probably took more time than the grinding of the lenses.
Meet the learners where they are. Technology allows customisation and you can learn how to go with the flow.
I received two $30 discount coupons on my first purchase. I applied one coupon to the first purchase and the other to the second. I received a $10 discount coupon with the second purchase for a subsequent purchase.
Incentivise logically. While many “gamify” by withholding benefits, this chain illustrated a strategy of giving. Giving away on a social media PLN, for example, does not make you poorer. It increases your reputational capital if you create value.
Do you see what I see? Or do you need a pair of special glasses?
I do not travel by taxi very often, but when I do my trips often lead to interesting conversations.
On one such trip the cabbie heard a radio ad for another station that claimed to offer content for expatriates from countries like Japan, Germany, and Bangladesh.
Intrigued he switched stations straight away. He remarked how generous the station’s benefactor had to be to provide such a service. He also wondered how the station sustained itself. At a long traffic stop, he Googled for information about the station.
For the record the radio station was Expat Radio 96.3XFM and it was relaunched in 2008 after a ten-year hiatus.
For the rest of the short journey, we chatted about progressive efforts, the irrelevance of dead tree newspapers, and how his 90-year-old mother was NOT a model of lifelong learning. When he drove off, he was still listening to the Bangladeshi music that was playing at the time.
What were my takeaways from the ride?
In demand. As a consultant I meet many people with niche offerings. Not long ago, efforts like Expat Radio would seem crazy. Today they are as common as the niche eateries that dot our landscape.
Someone will always buy into your ideas. Outdated is one size fits all. In demand is custom fit.
On demand. The cabbie practiced what I call interstitial learning. It was on-demand, just-in-time, and just-for-him. It happened with the help of his mobile phone and someone to immediately bounce ideas off.
By demand. The taxi driver also flipped his learning by not just consuming content but also teaching me what he had just found out. I listened, gave feedback, and extended his sharing.
By being on demand and by demand, we covered more ground than we could have anticipated. The transitions were seamless and the topics highly engaging. All learning is like that. It is a pity that all teaching is not.
Anyway I hope the cabbie continues on his journey to be a lifelong learner. To do this, he should refrain from Googling while driving. You must have a life first to be a lifelong learner.
This week I thought I should catch up on some notes that we scrolling further and further down my list. The first five are peripheral lessons or reminders from YouTube videos.
OK Go is one of my favourite bands because they embody innovation. Their latest effort involved being weightless. This is what it looks like.
Like most online productions, OK Go has a brief behind-the-scenes video to provide some insight into the inspiration and perspiration of their work.
I normally highlight how this is a perfect example of product and process. I also harp on how this should be the thinking and method of maintaining an e-portfolio.
Instead of giving people rules to follow, I would show them these two videos and ask them what e-portfolio values and mindsets might be. Some patterns would emerge, as would some unexpected answers. Most are likely to be valid and there would be more crowdsourced principles than one person could come up with.
The second half of the sixth season of The Walking Dead resumed earlier this week. I thoroughly enjoy this TV programme as much as I do its companion show, The Talking Dead. Talking Dead is broadcast ‘live’ right after the prerecorded Walking Dead.
There are important lessons and reminders that teachers can take from the format of the talk show.
When Talking Dead starts, its host, Chris Hardwick, will warn viewers that there are spoilers if they have not watched the episode of Walking Dead first. Viewers can ignore that message because they have a choice.
How much choice do teachers give their students?
Hardwick then mentions some Walking Dead highlights before introducing a panel of three guests. Most of the time two of the three guests are associated with the show, i.e., they could be its actors, directors, or producers. Quite often the third guest is a celebrity who is a fan of the show, but is not directly involved in it.
The “insider” guests provide insights into the programme that you would not otherwise get. The “outsider” guests tend to provide alternative points of view.
Good teachers know how to create interest in the topic by providing teasers or highlights. How many bring in content experts into their classrooms with the help of recorded videos, or conferencing with Google Hangouts or Skype?
To anticipate a complaint: Why should teachers think this is troublesome or difficult when such resources and tools are readily available? It is one thing to learn content out of context, it is another to hear from a primary source on how to use it. That is, there is learning about and there is learning to be.
Various social media channels are mentioned and used throughout the talk show. Twitter in particular is used to collect questions, comments, observations, and fan art. The Twitter handles of the panel are also shown when each member is introduced or featured.
How many teachers take advantage of social media to reach as they teach?
The other formulaic elements of the talk show are:
- A memoriam of the characters and zombies that died
- A Dead ‘live’ quiz (done in real time)
- ‘Live’ polls on what the audience is thinking about an issue
- Show insights via behind-the-scenes video snippets, stills, and summaries
- Audience members being invited to walk up to a microphone and fans to call over the phone to ask the panel questions
- Fans tweets that are featured on screen at strategic intervals
- A sneak preview of the next episode
- A reminder to connect on social media
These should sound familiar to a teacher: Critical summaries, quizzes and polls, visual media, Q&A, learner feedback, link and hook to the next lesson, and how to contact me outside of class.
The quiz is something that stands out for me. The viewer is not told that they will take a quiz nor what the objectives or content are. They watch Walking Dead and then take the ‘live’ quiz in Talking Dead. The questions could come from anywhere in the episode.
Such a quiz design is contrary to what most teachers might have been taught. For example, there must be clear alignment between curricular goals, lesson outcomes, lesson activities, and assessment. Teachers are taught to prepare the students first and to let them know what the objectives and outcomes are.
The show’s quiz breaks this formula because people want to watch the show, they are paying attention throughout, and they might even watch the show again if they did not notice something. The quiz is gamified in that participants compete to be the fastest and have the most correct answers, and the winners (with anonymised handles) are displayed in a leaderboard.
All these and the panel interviews are done in the space of 30-40 minutes. This might sound chaotic, but the elements are implemented so skilfully and seamlessly that it looks effortless. The pattern is formulaic, but viewers are drawn to the Talking Dead because it is so enjoyable.
The differences are down to agency. How might teachers give the ownership of learning, complete with its excitement and its problems, to the learner so that it is a joyful burden to bear?
Other than these “lesson” elements, Chris Hardwick is a consummate host and he reminds me of a skilled classroom facilitator who relies on the pedagogy of questions. How many of our teachers still prefer to be purveyors of content instead of facilitators of thinking and learning?
I can already hear zombie teachers moaning and groaning that Talking Dead is for entertainment, not education. I say we be humble enough to learn from non-educators with good ideas how to be better educators.